On June 28-30, 2002, the Sixth Annual Southeastern Mini Truckin' Nationals were held at the Governor's Palace Theatre in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Since its move to that location a couple of years ago, the show has continued to grow by leaps and bounds.
And what used to be two shows going on at the same time in the same town has merged into one huge mother of an event. With the recent addition of NOPI Motorsports, a major player in the financial and promotional backing that The Southern Street Machine Association has for the event, there was a definite air of professionalism running through the show that was very refreshing -- even if the entry fees were a bit steeper than usual.
This year, thousands flocked to Pigeon Forge for the latest happenings at the show that no one anywhere wants to miss. Even with increased security from Pigeon Forge's finest, which appeared everywhere because of last year's incessant after-hours drag-fest show, mini-truckers showed up like we've never seen before. They came to showoff what they'd been building or were finishing up building during the winter months.
Since we here at Mini Truckin' would never miss Mini Truckin' Nats to save our own lives, we were looking to make a killing at this show, and so we did. Typically, we get about 10 to 12 features shot at a successful event, even with the presence of trucks we've photographed before. This year, we beat every record we'd ever set for ourselves by shooting 21 features in Pigeon Forge -- adding exciting new trucks to our feature files. Just from that sort of figure, you know the trucks that showed up to Pigeon Forge were nothing short of spectacular.
On Friday, the show was being set up, but you could have pulled into the gates for an early judging session. Doing that freed up plenty of time later in the weekend for trips to points-of-fun in the vacation towns of Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg. If you've never been to the foot of the Smoky Mountains, where Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg are, you're missing out on one of the South's best-kept secrets for having fun. No matter where you go, you'll find go-kart tracks, shopping, all kinds of food, amusement parks, and more stuff to keep you entertained than any place other than Las Vegas.
For those who didn't get into town until late Friday night, there was a long, long line of show hopefuls who wrapped around the city block at Governor's Palace Theater. With the show field filled, enthusiasts who had already been judged were asked to enjoy themselves, but if they needed to leave, the people trying to get in would gobble up the room they were occupying quickly. By late Saturday, the Mini Truckin' Nats event staff had processed more than 1,400 vehicles and had more than 25,000 spectators file through the entry gates to check them all out.
With plenty going on all day on NOPI's stage, there was a cornucopia of custom paraphernalia and Mini Truckin' fun. With title sponsors Falken Tire, Holley, APC, and Circuit City offering their own brands of custom excitement all weekend, there was plenty to see and buy for your ride at the show.
After the show closed for the evening on Saturday night, the typical cruising began. This year, enthusiasts were cracked down on like never before, keeping them from dragging chassis up and down Pigeon Forge's Main street; hundreds of moving violation tickets were issued. In all, there were far fewer incidents this year than last, but the police issuing the citations weren't in any mood to accept an answer other than yes sir. We saw cops that treated mini-truckers fairly and actually let them off the hook, but found far more of their ranks were towing mini-trucks for reasons that would get nothing more than a glance from a patrolman at home. In all, the cruising has gone downhill, but for those who simply drove their rides slowly from point A to point B, there was no problem whatsoever.
Sunday, the awards ceremony went off without a hitch. When they finished calling off the names of those who'd proven themselves most-worthy of winning their classes and Best Ofs, the crowd gradually began to make their trek away from the Great Smoky Mountains and back to their homes all over the United States.
Sadly, the show has become too policed due to the acts of mini-truckers who can't act rationally when visiting for the weekend. However, the show is huge, still growing, and is extremely fun to attend. Even with the baloney that went with after-hours shenanigans of the cops, the Mini Truckin' Nats is a show that can't be missed. For information on the Seventh Annual Southeastern Mini Truckin' Nats, please contact: The Southern Street Machine Association, c/o Charlie Cobble, Dept. MT, 1751 Hwy. 321, Parrotsville, TN 37843, or call (423) 623-4644 or (423) 623-1871. See you there next year.